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Paranorman

Year: 2012
Studio: Universal
Director: Chris Butler
Writer: Chris Butler
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, John Goodman, Lesley Mann, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Tempestt Bledsoe, Alex Borstein

If you can't stand kids movies but have a gun to your head and have to pick one, you can do a lot worse than this effort.

Just like Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a classic noir thriller as well as a cartoon, Paranorman is similarly multi-dimensional. It's not just a Dreamworks Animation-styled family cartoon with a few swipes by a writer who knows a bit about horror. Writer/director Chris Butler loves horror the same way you could feel Tim Burton does in Frankenweenie, every reference lavishly reverent to the classic tropes from across the canon.

Less memorable is the actual story. Young Norman (Smit-McPhee) is a regular kid in a small town who loves everything related to horror movies. We meet him in the beginning watching one with his grandma. Problem is, his grandma's been dead for a couple of years, but because of his unique gift to communicate with the dead, Norman often watches TV with his grandma, says hi to the local ghouls on his way to school and mostly tries to keep his talent on the down low and avoid the bullying from peers and worry from his family that comes with it.

But his crazy Uncle Prenderghast (Goodman) passes over and visits Norman to give him a warning about the visions he's been having. There's a witches curse over the town, and Prenderghast knows only Norman can reverse it and save the town.

With zombies rising from the grave to feast on the living, Norma takes his misfit new friend Neil, his teen queen sister (Kendrick) and her dumb boyfriend (Affleck) to try and save the day by placating the spirit of the witch who threatens all their lives.

Even though it's using every horror trope you know and love, it plays them all for laughs instead of scares, and you'd be perfectly fine taking a smart kid to this movie. But while poking gentle fun at the genre, Butler does so with the utmost admiration for it.

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